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How to remove friction from your website

How to remove friction from your website

When it comes to your website, 'friction' is anything that make the visitor less likely to do the thing you want them to do.

That could be to call you, email you, read more content, sign up for something, download something or buy something.

The more of these points of friction you have on your website, the less effective it will be.  So how to you reduce or remove it?

In general, friction can be caused by many things including:

  • Poor product or service design – if you make people jump through hoops to get your product or service or there are many points at which they might bail out such as price, competitiveness, lack of stock, poor reputation etc
  • Poor lead generation – badly targeted, misleading advertising or a mismatch between what you offer and what people find when they get to your site can cause friction
  • Unclear or conflicting messages – i.e. what you say is either confusing, mixed or doesn't tell them what they want to know. This includes basics like, why you should use you (as opposed to someone else) or exactly what it is that you do. It could also include offering a premium service with a cheap looking website
  • Lack of information – in a mobile obsessed world, a lot of websites are going for style over substance. It's just frustrating for someone who wants to know if you can solve their problem to have you coyly dance around the answer.
  • Poor Usability – your website is hard to use, things are broken or hard to find or your website is just plain confusing

We're focusing on the website side of things here, so.....

Your website could be creating friction

1. Poor User Experience

If buying from you or making an enquiry is not easy, people will simply go somewhere else.

The absence of even the simplest piece of information like opening hours can make people move on to the company that makes it easy for them. So it's vital you make your visitors experience as pleasant as easy as you can:

  • work on making your site load as fast as possible. Having a fast-loading site requires many decisions from how many images to use on a page and optimising the code to where the site is hosted
  • make it easy to find items with a site search (if your site is big enough) and clear consistent navigation. Don't use clever wording or images instead of labels for menu items and navigation links
  • use quality photos or videos that are relevant to the content, and help sell the products or services – this does NOT include a large showy background image or video unrelated to the page
  • offer a live chat option for answering questions while people are shopping
  • keep order or signup forms as short as possible – don't include things you don't need. But before you go removing everything except a name and address, consider this - if people don't want to tell you what model car they drive or what their take home income is, are they really people you should spend time trying to convert to a customer? If you do require quite a bit of information to filter out the tyre kickers, try putting progress bars or make your forms multi-paged.
  • simplify your registration – if you can offer guest purchases, do so. Social logins can give you information to begin building a relationship, but many people don't want to hand over their personal information and/or access to their personal social streams and friends
  • have clear, concise instructions. Don't let your product expert develop the text – they will make assumptions about what the punter does and does not know. Get a third party at least look over it and see if it makes sense to them
  • break text up with headings, bullet points, lists and paragraphs so it's easy to read
  • avoid offering too many options – choice paralysis can prevent people making decisions. It may be better to provide a phone number, online chat or 'ask a question' feature so the visitor can ask questions
  • only put key one call to action on a page - particularly if it's a landing page (we're not counting navigation here)
  • make things stand out visually – don't make buttons grey or links tiny text if you want people to click on them.

2. Visual distractions

Too many things competing for a visitors attention will increase the chance that they'll just walk (or click) away.

Distractions include:

  • Multiple font styles and types or text that is so tiny you have to squint
  • Advertising or cross-sells
  • Distracting, irrelevant images and/or video
  • Unnecessary design flourishes – parallax scrolling, we're talking to you!
  • Inconsistent design elements. It goes without saying that all your pages should have the same overall layout and style. While different page types necessitate different layouts of content, things like font type, colours and style need to be consistent. It's another reason why having a separate blog from your main site is a bad idea
  • Too many links, too many menu items. The 'three click' rule says everything should only be three clicks away. But 'rule' has been busted by usability tests. For each page, think about where someone would want to go next, not where they might want to go eventually
  • Confusing page layouts – if your visitor has to read a paragraph, then click a link on the right hand column, then scroll down and read instructions on the left then click a link to go somewhere else on the page this is going to confuse and frustrate them. The path through a page, form or content should be very clear.

3. Lack of Trust

If a customer does not trust you, they will not do business with you. Trust building features include:

  • A professional design
  • customer testimonials and reviews/voting if appropriate
  • Information about who you are and the people behind the brand. I know people who don't put information about who they are on their website because they don't want people to know who they are – figuring it will put them off. Seriously? Business is about relationships unless you sell something disposable and low value
  • showing sample reports, video or screen-shots of what customers can expect
  • clear information about pricing, terms delivery times etc
  • clear paths through your site and signposts (calls to action) of what to do to get things started will convey that you are customer-friendly
  • trust symbols such as security and/or verification statements, industry body badges etc
  • If there are any surprises in the purchase process or the visitor has any sense of caution about doing business with you they will not purchase from you. So avoid things like leaving additional fees like taxes and shipping to the last minute. Make them as clear as possible.

Reducing Friction

Reducing friction does not automatically mean stripping things down to the bare minimum – in fact, sometimes quite the opposite.

Removing what might seem like extra information for those familiar with your product or services, might simply confuse new or potential customers who have to spend time figuring out what you are saying or what they are supposed to do.

Many times I've heard “people don't like to scroll”. Yes, the do – if they are interested in the content and it meets their needs. If they don't want to read a piece of content, chances are they are not the right audience.

Reducing friction for your customers starts by thinking about them and what they want and need.

If in doubt – test it with your target audience. Try the 5 second test. Show someone your website for 5 seconds and see if they can tell you what it's about after that time. If they can't you need to take some action so that they can.

Post Note

In a spectacular piece of irony, we sent out an email to our client list with a link to this blog.  Except the link was broken.  Thanks to the eagle eye of Greg from Ariel Plumbers and Gasfitters (your friendly Auckland gasfitters and plumbers) we could fix it.

So - another source of friction?  Things being broken.  I should have tested the link.  My bad.

Image by Peter Hess

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I have crossed paths with quite a few different IT and Website development companies over the years, having worked for a large number of companies. When the need arose for assistance in my current employ, Essentee was the first that came to mind.

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